2004 PACIFIC CREST TRAIL TREK
Chinook Pass-Walupt Lake
We met at the gravel lot at eight to carpool to Chinook Pass. It was going to be a hot day. After a pit stop and water break at Camp Sheppard, we arrived at the trailhead and were underway at noon.
The PCT winds upward from a starting elevation of 5,300’ to a saddle on the crest south of Naches Peak. At the “Iron Ranger” we filled out a wilderness permit and then descended through forest to Dewey Lakes for lunch. We heard later that the pass temperature was in the 90’s. The heat did not seem to deter the mosquito population at all; it seemed to make them just as thirsty as we were.
After lunch we followed the PCT around the shoreline of Dewey Lake and pumped more water before climbing in a gentle traverse up and away to the south. After several more hours of hiking through open forest and fields of lupine and Indian paintbrush, we dropped to a saddle and took a side trail east to American Lake.
Soaking tired feet in chilly American Lake and enjoying the view of the waterfall and snowfields on the mountains revived us enough to get tents set up and dinner cooked in record time. Brad cooked fresh pork tenderloins with Mexican rice for the Old Goats. The scouts dined on a Zatarain Chicken Jambalaya dish prepared by Ryley. Mike caught and released two fish while dinner cooked. We were all in the sack well before dark!
Up early at six to get the French java press going for the Old Goats and the hot water boiling for oatmeal. Everyone was packed and ready to saddle up for the trail by nine. After rejoining the PCT, Brad stashed his pack and gallantly offered to carry my load for a mile or two before heading back to Chinook Pass.
The morning hiking was cool and pleasant, with great views across the Ohanepecosh River valley to Mount Rainier and Little Tahoma. We saw a lot of elk tracks and several times Mike thought that he could smell them. The trail traversed on the west side of the crest and eventually rounded a ridge to give us a view of the Goat Rocks nearly thirty miles to the south, shining in the sun.
We descended to the head of a valley above Three Lake, and then traversed over towards a windy saddle where we could get some relief from the bugs. On the way we met two “thru-hikers”—lean, mid-fiftyish women who had started two weeks ago at the Columbia River, and who had already hiked twelve miles by eleven in the morning! They were planning to overnight at a lake five miles north of Chinook Pass.
After lunch we met a troop from Federal Way heading north from White Pass. Then we descended past Crag Lake and Buck Lake along well-graded switchbacks and several miles later arrived at the Bumping River, which drains out of Fish Lake. There didn’t seem to be as many bugs, so we found a nice campsite just off the trail that had a view of a meadow, and spent the rest of the afternoon catching frogs and soaking our feet. The Old Goats feasted on Carol’s miso soup followed by teriyaki chicken with rice, cashews, crispy noodles and mandarin oranges, and shared Toblerone chocolate with everyone for dessert. Devin fixed Noodle Alfredo bowls for the scouts.
Mike and I took a walk back up to Fish Lake hoping to see deer or elk after dinner. There were lots of fish jumping in the lake, so Mike returned with his pole and a borrowed head net to try his luck. While he was gone, several elk came out of the forest to the meadow across from the campsite.
A leisurely day with a late start… Our intended destination of Dumbbell Lake looked to be only six miles away, so we were just finishing a late breakfast when a troop from Shelton passed through heading to Pipe Lake. We met up with them at Snow Lake at around lunch-time, after climbing gradually through mixed meadows and forest.
The Shelton troop had initially planned to hike to Walupt Lake, but a week or so ago had heard that two people had been airlifted off the Packwood Glacier for an unknown reason. Their plans were to hike as far as Tieton Pass, about eleven miles past White Pass, and then descend the Clear Fork of the Cowlitz.
We rolled in to Dumbbell Lake at around four in the afternoon. It is a large lake with a peninsula that juts out on the southern shore. There was a brisk wind blowing west to east that made camping there very pleasant. The lake had a shallow “bench” that allowed you to wade out 75 feet or so and still be only waist deep. Nearly all of us got wet and washed the dust off; we also rinsed out socks.
Despite the presence of a 12-inch trout carcass in the water off the peninsula, no fish bit that day.
The wind faded at sunset, so we had a small campfire and tried to tell as many Jeff Foxworthy “You Might Be A Redneck…” jokes as we could remember. We also reminisced about past hikes and camping trips that the troop had taken.
The Old Goats dined on Mike’s garlic herb tuna tortilla wraps and cup-o-noodles. Miles made a large batch of cheesy noodles? for the scouts.
Everyone was up early and rarin’ to head south to White Pass and the “Resupply Feast” at Leech Lake. We had quite a steady climb up out of the Dumbbell-Buesch Lake basin up onto a ridgeline that offered dusty views to the east of Spiral Butte and Dog Lake.
Eventually the trail swung down to Deer Lake, which was so mosquito-infested we kept right on going! An hour or so more of steady descent and we were at Leech Lake, which seemed quite crowded for a Tuesday. There were many fishermen on the lake, and the campground was nearly full. We staked out a campsite and some went swimming; Mike walked around the lake to the little store and bought a roll of TP while Carol visited with the Shelton troop. We shared some of our Benadryl and anti-itch cream with them.
Julie showed up with her son Mitchell at around two in the afternoon. Ryley’s mom picked him up shortly after he gobbled some Benadryl for his mosquito bites, so I don’t imagine that he was much company for her on the way home.
We had ice-cold Thomas Kemper sodas, kettle chips and grilled bratwurst for supper. Bruce Lincoln arrived just as the first bratwursts were coming off the grill—he brought TP for Miles and spent a couple of hours hearing our stories. Carol prepared the bagels and cream cheese and salmon sandwiches for the next day’s breakfast that night. Most of us got to bed early, since we planned to be underway by 0800. I fell asleep to the sounds of a spirited game of “Spoons”.
We crossed the White Pass highway at eight, according to plan. The PCT switchbacks in a mile or so to a saddle east of the ski area, then climbs to the Hogback south of the “back” chairlift. We were having an early lunch up on the ridge when a troop from Kent came through from the south, heading north towards the Bumping River and Camp Fife. They were muttering about a 3,000’ climb up to Hidden Springs from the Tieton side, and looked rather grim-faced and fatigued.
The trail ran along the Hogback with occasional views of Mount Rainier, then abruptly crossed along the head of a huge basin above Miriam Lake. At the end of the basin, we switchbacked to a saddle that overlooked Shoe Lake and a jaw-dropping vista of the Goat Rocks: Mt. Curtis-Gilbert, Mt. Ives, and Old Snowy.
We had a choice of dropping to Shoe Lake for water or staying high on a bypass trail. Some additional scrutiny of the map was in order—we had heard from the Kent troop that Hidden Springs was a “bug-hole”, and we were thinking that Tieton Pass might be a better place to camp, even though it was four miles beyond Hidden Springs. There looked to be two opportunities to get water at stream crossings just before the pass, and there was also tiny Lutz Lake, about a mile beyond the pass.
We decided to go for Tieton Pass, and began a steady descent of nearly four miles through dry forest. We stopped for water at one of the streams, which sported a robust population of frogs. At the second stream, the scouts spooked a bull elk who vaulted up the hillside above them.
At Tieton Pass, we met a party of four men who encouraged us to push for Lutz Lake, saying there were good campsites there. We made it to Lutz Lake at around six that evening, and since everyone was pretty bushed, Carol offered to cook for the group. We had a starter of cheese and crackers with chicken noodle soup, followed by turkey in cream of vegetable gravy topped with cheese-garlic dumplings.
We got back on the trail after visiting at length with a 72 year old woman who was on her way back to White Pass. She had made a base camp in the basin below Elk Pass and told us that the fields were carpeted in lupines to where the meadows looked blue instead of green.
We reached the basin after about an hour of hiking, and it was a wonderful spot. Rushing waterfalls poured out from snowfields and ran down the sides of the valley. We dumped out our Lutz Lake water and refilled our bottles with “Goat Rocks Champagne”.
The trail climbed steeply and then turned the corner of the ridge for views of Packwood Lake and Coyote Basin below Old Snowy.
For nearly a mile and a half, the trail traversed a knife-edge ridgeline from Elk Pass to the Packwood Glacier, with only two spots wide enough to let other hikers or horses pass. We toiled along in the thin air and gusty winds. The trail was narrow and sluffy in spots, but was decorated with dwarf fireweed, electric-blue larkspur and alpine speedwell in many places. We met a troop from the Seattle area heading north—one of their adults was carrying two packs because another member of their party was extremely acrophobic and was experiencing vertigo from the exposure.
Just below the Packwood Glacier, we stopped for a twenty minute rest, snack and a drink, so that we would be in good shape for the snow crossing. It was four in the afternoon. Several hundred feet below us, we could see a small group of half a dozen mountain goats lying down at the edge of a snowfield.
The glacier traverse was almost an anti-climax. The snow had been softened by the afternoon sun so it was easy to kick steps. There was a bit of rockfall off of Old Snowy that barely missed us, so we didn’t dally until we’d reached the other side. From the vantage point above Snowgrass Flats we could see Mt. Adams beginning to glow in the late afternoon sun. Goat Lake was still frozen, although the Lilly Basin trail appeared to be free of snow.
We headed down, following cairns along the trail to a bench just above the junction with the Snowgrass Flats trail. Miles had a close encounter with a hoary marmot who was cooling his belly on a patch of snow. Kitt, Miles and Casey opted to sleep in the meadow amongst the Indian paintbrush flowers. I set up my tent, but left the rainfly off. The Old Goats feasted on Mike’s offering of cheesy goldfish crackers and chicken alfredo, with vanilla pudding topped with dried “Berries’n’Cherries” for dessert. The scouts had beer sausage and rice jambalaya prepared by Kitt.
The full moon rose alongside Mt. Adams as we watched the sun set over Goat Ridge. A stiff wind blew on into the night, well past sundown.
We woke to something that sounded like mosquitoes on steroids. It was actually several hummingbirds foraging for nectar among the paintbrush blossoms. After breakfast we descended to the “by-pass” trail and then traversed a mile or two around a fold of the ridge into a gorgeous basin at the headwaters of the Cispus River below Mt. Ives. The trail crossed at the base of a fifteen foot tall waterfall and then traversed over to another large stream before climbing steadily to Cispus Pass, which overlooked the headwaters of the Klickitat River. We saw lots of creamy yellow lily-like flowers which had hairy petals to trap moisture with—(some one we met called them “cat’s ears”)—I later found out they were Mariposa Lilies. They did look like a grouping of three cat ears!
At Cispus Pass we met a party of six men who were out for several days of “watching the sunsets”. They were headed towards Lake Corral and then out somewhere east onto the Yakima Indian reservation. We stayed high above the Klickitat and rejoined the PCT at a saddle about a mile and a half northwest of Sheep Lake.
We had a lunch stop and spent time looking at the map. It appeared that the main route of the PCT on the map was a line that descended before Cispus Pass and traversed out and around a finger of ridge before gaining Nannie Ridge and Sheep Lake. Our route had chopped off about a mile of hiking. We made camp at Sheep Lake at about one in the afternoon.
We found a great campsite in a grove of trees several hundred feet away from the lake. The lake was cool, with a sandy bottom, and it was quite deep in the middle. Great for feet-soaking and cooling off! The boys swam across it and were surprised at how winded they were until Mike and I looked at the map and realized the lake was at 5,800’.
The BSA has a Mile Swim award—maybe Troop 101 needs to propose a Mile-High Swim award!
Lazy afternoon of napping, exploring, newt and frog catching, and card-playing was had by all. The Old Goats had Carol’s potato-leek soup, ham and potatoes au gratin, and strawberry cheesecake for supper. The scouts dined on ham and noodle parmesan and instant mashed potatoes, made by Casey. There was a lot of talk about Big Bottom burgers. We were all in the sack again just after sunset.
Underway at eight-thirty, catching views of a now very close Mt. Adams as we traveled out along Nannie Ridge. After an hour or so, we skirted below a rock buttress of Nannie Peak, and dropped our packs for a side trip up to the summit. Carol, Kitt and Devin stopped several hundred feet up at a rock bench and waited for Mike, Casey and Miles to summit and return. They reached the top and found the site of an old USDA forest fire lookout cabin, with a marker dating from 1937.
On the return to the trail, Casey took a tumble and cut his knee—good thing he had the first aid kit! Mike patched him up and we hustled on down the trail, arriving at Walupt Lake just before noon. Ted was at the lake waiting for us, with our clean clothes.
We put away 4 pitchers of draft root beer and seven ½ pound Big Bottom Burgers at the Bar and Grill in Randle before arriving in Olympia at four-thirty. Mike the volunteer firefighter just missed the four-alarm Griswold’s Office Supply structure fire—darn!
Ryley C. age 15
Miles L. age 13
Kitt M. age 14
Devin P. age 15
Casey P. age 13
Carol Dolliver, ASM
Mike Parvinen, ASM
A big thank you to Ted Dunlap, Brad Pruitt, Julie Mullikin and Michelle Parvinen for trek support with transportation and re-supply.